How to strengthen security for your business bank accounts

Cybercrime targeted at business banking accounts is a serious issue. Do you know the most effective deterrent?  It is developing a strong partnership with your bank. 

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Community banks are safe havens that protect business customers from cyber theft and other crimes jeopardizing their accounts. But preventing security breaches requires diligence from customers as well as their banks. Working together with your bank, you can go far to stamp out unauthorized access by fraudsters. 

Team up with your banking institution to fully comprehend and implement the security initiatives that best suit your company.  Also work hand in hand with your bank to put into place account safeguards that can help your bank pinpoint and avert unauthorized access to your company’s assets.   

Here are a few specific measures your company should initiate. 

  1. Safeguard your company online. Using unprotected Internet connections can leave your company vulnerable to cyber threats. Maintain up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware. Ensure all sensitive data is encrypted.
  2. Filter ACH transactions. One way fraudsters may target your company’s accounts is by leveraging ACH to attempt fraudulent transactions. Progressive banks can offer your company the ability to block or filter the ACH transactions on their accounts. With a filter attached, your accounts can be debited through ACH only by companies you have approved.
  3. Match checks presented with checks authorized. Leading community banks provide a service called Positive Pay. Dollar figures and check numbers of checks presented for payment are compared against a list of checks previously issued and authorized, with unmatched checks flagged as “exception items.” 

Secure banking accounts are essential to your company’s survival. Work hand in hand with your bank to make sure they’re as fully protected as possible. 

How are you securing your bank account?

Become a better leader by empowering your employees

The leader of a global organization recognized he needed to give more responsibility and authority to his people. For a year, when tempted to be authoritative, he paused and asked 17-LB-545 Blog photohimself, “Is it worth it?” The lesson taught him half his pronouncements weren’t “worth it.” He improved as a leader by giving employees more control, and exerting less control himself.

Paradoxically, many leaders never really realize their full potential until they learn to empower their staff members. Here’s what you can learn from these leaders.           

  1. Encourage “comfort zone” departures. Give your employees big opportunities and challenges that can empower them. Doing so can help them reach their full potential.
  2. Avoid second guessing your employees’ decisions. Instead, give them the confidence that comes with backing their decision-making. It will give you more time to focus on the overall company vision.
  3. Reward positive performance. Reinforce your employees’ emerging ability to lead by recognizing their efforts and rewarding empowered decisions. It’s a sure way to help them build on successes.

It may be hard to relinquish control to others. But by so doing, you’ll spur greatness in your staff and build employee-employer trust. In short, it’s “worth it.”

How do you empower employees?

How to maximize your community banking relationship’s benefits

There’s an old saying often attributed to an early American writer and philosopher. “In order to have a friend, you have to be a friend.” The lesson applies to relationships in any walk of life. They generally don’t work without effort from both parties.  17-LB-544 May Blog photo

Community bankers live and work in the communities they serve, growing personally acquainted with customers and their needs. But they can’t build great customer-bank relationships alone. Gaining the most benefit from a banking relationship is in part the customer’s responsibility. Adopt these approaches to help build that rapport.

  1. Start with a face-to-face meeting. Arrange a meeting with your bank’s relationship manager at your office or an off-site location. A face-to-face meeting can be a good way to establish rapport and build a foundation for future talks in person or by phone.         
  2. Schedule regular discussions. Conversations about the current state of your business and how your needs are changing can help build a bond.  Once given this input, your banker can respond with adjustments to, or expansions of, current service. 
  3. Treat your banker as business resource. Look to your banker as a trusted advisor and source of insight and feedback. He/she can offer ideas about your financials, business and strategic plans, and can also deliver crucial intel on industry and market trends.   
  4. Prioritize open communication. The sooner you bring your banker into the loop on your hurdles and opportunities, the sooner he or she can offer options to assist you.

 Like we say, “in order to have a friend, you have to be a friend.” Follow the guidelines above, and you will have a friend in good times and -- more important -- in tough times.

What’s important to you in a good community banking relationship?

How CEO peer groups can help you

     17-LB-543 blog photo Whether you’re a CEO, president, owner or partner, it can be lonely at the top. You’re faced with important decisions every day, and it can be helpful to have an objective sounding board of other top executives. This is where CEO peer groups deliver important benefits.

      CEO peer groups, such as Vistage International, Renaissance Executive Forums and Inner Circle, can be instrumental in helping key executives through difficult times brought on by competitive challenges, business growth pains and personal hurdles. In these groups, company owners meet with a mentor and other company owners to help one another with business and personal issues. They often have “industry experts” speak about best practices in areas such as finance, leadership and human resources. Here are a few of the key benefits a CEO peer group can provide:

  1. Strength in numbers.  With the support of a CEO peer group, no chief executive is ever alone. The peers that surround him or her provide strength in the form of crucial insights, advice and personal support.
  2. Tough love.  Group members can hold you accountable to your goals, and provide inspiration when the going gets tough. They can also help you identify your weaknesses, and how to deal with them.  Members can voice the constructive criticism a CEO needs, but may not always receive from people in his or her own company.
  3. Bottom line results. The open exchange of ideas, suggestions and best practices isn't just a good idea. It's also good business. Studies show companies headed by CEOs in peer groups display better-than-industry-average revenue growth and profitability.

     The best evidence CEO peer groups pay dividends? Recent research indicates approx. 80 percent of CEO peer group participants renew membership annually.

     What’s been your experience with CEO peer groups?

Three key factors can make or break acquisitions

Two auto industry examples illustrate how acquisitions succeed or fail. In the first, Daimler acquired Chrysler and smaller shares of Mitsubishi and Hyundai. In the second, 17-LB-542 Merger blog stock photoRenault bought a one-third stake in Nissan. Daimler was stronger than the companies it acquired and could never sync with them. The marriage foundered. Renault and Nissan were similar in size, the acquisition succeeded and Nissan's been revived under Renault's partial ownership.

Ability to mesh well with the acquired/acquiring company is but one factor to strongly consider before proceeding with an acquisition. The following is a short list of strategies to understand when acquiring or being acquired by another company.

  1. Synergy must result. If an acquisition doesn't make the two companies better together than either would be on its own, why move forward? The deal's equation must be not 1 + 1 = 2, but 1 + 1 = 3 or more.  Synergies may flow from the companies gaining greater revenues, realizing reduced costs or achieving enhanced sustainability together.
  2. Collaboration and shared objectives. The acquisition has a far better chance of succeeding if the two companies possess similar goals and can come together to collaborate harmoniously on key aspects of the businesses.
  3. Transition team essential. There must be a top-notch team in place to manage the transition from two separate companies to one entity pulling together.  It's a crucial stage in creating a good cultural fit. The best players must be calling the shots.

Figures show just 25 percent of mergers and acquisitions succeed. Follow the principles above, and yours may be among that fortunate percentage.

What do you feel are the most important keys to an acquisition?

Business necessity can be the mother of reinvention

16-LB-581 April2 blog photoThose who love video know Netflix and Blockbuster. Both became household names, Netflix via a mailed video platform, Blockbuster by opening countless video rental stores. Having reached success, Netflix reinvented itself with video streaming services. Blockbuster did not reinvent itself, and the days when its stores stood on every corner are but a memory.

The example points up an oft-experienced business reality.  After growing for years, a company goes into a growth stall. It could be from misreading technology or buying trends, a stagnation in core demand for products or myriad of other growth-stymying factors. Some argue a company facing this stage must reinvent itself or face extinction. If yours is a company needing reinvention, here’s how to do it successfully:

  1. Look beyond today’s success.  Some companies become convinced today’s robust revenues and profits will continue forever.  That can blind them to emerging market challenges on the horizon. Keep an eye out for changes that could derail your success, and ways to reinvent your company in response.
  2. Hone new capabilities.  Your company’s capabilities and expertise differentiate it from lesser competitors.  Sooner or later, these capabilities will likely become dated. Invest in training, research and development that enable your company to maximize business opportunities that lay ahead.
  3.  Strengthen your company with additional talent. Reinvention also calls for new team members who can bring fresh insights to corporate processes as well as today’s changing marketplace.

In business, change is the only constant. The difficult process of reinvention can be a critical strategy in ensuring your company changes with the times.

How are you reinventing your company?

How to ensure healthy business cash flow.

Ever notice how often flow of cash is likened to flow of water? People talk of funds drying up, money evaporating, flow of funds slowing to a trickle and costs siphoning off profits. There's good reason for this symbolism. Just as no life form can survive long without water, companies without cash flow are fated to premature demise. 16-LB-580 Cash Flow Blog photo

To ensure your company's cash flow stays healthy, routinely monitor current and project future cash flows. Understand where your company's cash level stands right now. Create a monthly cash flow forecast. Start with past records of revenues and expenses, as well as customer payment histories and business outflows.

Then factor in the current business and economic climate to arrive at your expected cash position six months or a year from now.  As you move forward, stay on course by comparing actual to forecasted flow.

Remember these additional considerations:

  1. Identify problems early.  Keep a watchful eye so issues don’t become crises. Advance awareness of looming cash flow woes may enable you to seek your bank's help to stave off problems. Have a backup plan prepared to address real emergencies.
  2. Adopt a business growth plan to guide growth. Cash outflows for expansion often occur long before inflows from expansion are realized. Business growth plans can help ensure growth remains sensible and cash flow healthy.
  3. Leverage tech tools. Cloud-based accounting systems are increasingly affordable and easily implemented, helping your company smooth out cash flow fluctuations.

Implementing these steps can ensure flow of cash stays strong and steady, helping your company in turn remain vibrant.

What steps enable your company to maintain healthy cash flow?

Leadership Principles That Work Best for Today's Workforce

Today's work world is different from that of yesteryear. It's more diverse, inclusive and fast-paced. With many Boomers toiling longer alongside growing ranks of Millennials, today’s workforce may be more multi-generational than ever before. These changes mean today's leaders must adhere to a different set of principles than those followed by past leaders. 16-LB-579 March Blog Stock Photo

Many believe the most important single principle is trust. Leaders who trust and in turn are trusted by those they lead tend to build effective workplaces characterized by innovation, cooperation and productivity. Consider these additional leadership principles.

  1. Sincere concern for employees. Myriad studies have proven leaders demonstrating a sincere interest in their employees' lives, both at and away from work, gain the greatest buy-in from employees. Sincere appreciation for workers breeds staff engagement; the opposite leads top employees to seek greener pastures.
  2. Accessibility and communication. Today's most effective leaders aren't sealed off from their staffs, they're out interacting with them, sharing information and seeking  input on matters of concern to all.  Fostering an open, two-way communication process is instrumental in building trust throughout an organization.
  3. Make good on promises. True of all of current working generations, but particularly Millennials, is the tendency to hold leaders accountable for fulfilling promises. Leaders who promise but fail to deliver may alienate the majority of staff.  One who consistently keeps promises large and small takes a major step toward creating an engaged and productive workforce.

There's no secret formula for effective leadership in today's work world. Follow the above principles, and it's a good bet you'll retain great workers and attract terrific new ones.

What leadership principles are most important to you?


Finding a Community Bank Right for Your Business

16-LB-578 Blog photoAs we’ve noted, not all banks – or businesses – are alike. Finding a bank with services well-tailored to your own distinct business opportunities and challenges is critical. Unfortunately, some companies spend about as much time selecting a bank as they might a low-end shredder. They’re sadder but wiser when their choice proves a poor match for their unique needs.

For many companies seeking personal service, quick response and lending flexibility, a community bank outperforms alternatives, from corporate banks to online lenders.

Ask your prospective bank these questions when determining which community bank is right for your company.  

  1. Extent of lending authority. Does the relationship banker have the flexibility to make substantial loans without a lot of red tape?  What’s the maximum amount the bank can extend to any single borrower? How quickly can the banker respond to a lending request?
  2. Boots on the ground. Does the banker you’re considering live in and know the business climate of your geographical area? Relationship bankers at many community banks possess keen insights into the local business community, and therefore may be more able to grasp a solid loan application’s merits.
  3. The personal touch. Will the relationship banker you choose take the time to know your needs personally, and be able to help your company surmount business obstacles uniquely its own? Also examine the bank’s turnover, as well as your banker’s longevity with the bank and his or her experience. Is there a good probability that he/she will continue serving your company as it grows?

Finding the right community bank takes effort. But that extra legwork may mean a big leg up for your company. What banking qualities do you consider crucial?


What to Know When Checking Your Credit Score

The winter months are prime for checking credit scores. Many also apply for credit during this time. Here’s what you should know when checking your score. 16-LB-577 Credit Score blog photo

  1. A credit score differs from a credit report. The credit report is an organized list of your credit activity. The credit score is a result of calculations that use your credit report to determine a value which suggests how likely you are to pay off your loans in the future. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau currently recommends for obtaining a free copy of your credit report once a year.  You can purchase your credit score from after you view the free credit report. You can also purchase it directly from the credit bureaus or .
  2. Key categories impact scores. Your credit score is calculated from five core categories, which are history of paying on time, amounts owed at present, length of your credit history, types of credit and new credit searches. The most widely used credit scoring model is the FICO Score (Fair Issac Corporation). Scores range from 350 to 850, with 650 deemed a “fair” score, while 750 or greater is “excellent”.
  3. Low credit scores can really cost you. There’s a compelling reason for striving for a high credit score. Without one, you’ll likely pay more for everything from credit card balances to mortgages. It could cost you thousands over a lifetime.
  4. Your credit score as well as your credit report can detect fraud. If you become an identity theft victim, it could unexpectedly lower your score.

It’s a good practice to check your credit score regularly.  Do you have any questions about credit scores?